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Spitzer Captures a Comet's Breakdown

Written by Linda Vu, Spitzer Science Center
May 5, 2006

Comet breaking apart
Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/W. Reach (SSC)

Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3 cannot seem to hold itself together. During a visit to the inner solar system in 1995, the icy dirtball began to fall apart.

In April of this year, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope captured an image of the shattered comet on its way back to the inner solar system. The infrared picture provides the best look yet at the crumbling comet's trail of debris, seen as a bridge connecting the larger fragments.

The new image is a tantalizing preview of a much larger picture Spitzer will obtain during observations on May 4 to 6, 2006. The telescope's super sensitive infrared eyes will have an unprecedented view of the debris stretching between larger comet chunks.



The Spitzer Space Telescope is a NASA mission managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This website is maintained by the Spitzer Science Center, located on the campus of the California Institute of Technology and part of NASA's Infrared Processing and Analysis Center. Privacy Policy

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